Thursday, August 19, 2010

School It Up

I'm almost finished with my first full week of school. I can already tell it's going to be a fantastic year despite the fact that I've already given out two detentions. Yes, I'm THAT teacher.
Anyway, my excitement over the year is building. Seems strange since school's already started, but it's true. The more time I spend with my students, the more lesson plans I create, the more team teaching I do, the more travel plans I make, the more excited I get. I suppose it's a mix between starting with a clean slate with freshman students, actually knowing what I'm doing this year, and having time to do it all.

My freshman students tend to stare at me in wonder. I think it's mostly because they're not quite sure what to make of me yet. Am I funny? Am I scary? I'm just so loud and animated. But at least they laugh at my jokes. That's all I care about. :)

I'm getting to "team teach" this year. I'm only teaching one of the three sections of 9th grade World History so I've been working really closely with the other WH teacher. He's super smart and experienced in teaching the class so he has a ton of ideas and resources. It's nice to brain storm and have new things available. And he seems to enjoy working together too which is nice. Not everyone likes cooperative teaching.

I'm starting the trip planning part for MUN for this semester. We'll be going to Singapore and South Korea (for some reason, I almost wrote North). I actually KNOW what I'm doing!!! I know what students to choose, who deserves to go and who will be best. I know what hotel to stay at and how to get plane tickets. I know how to get to and from the airport. I have some ideas for sight seeing. I have chaperones planned and...well, it's just good.

On another note, I came home early today. Every day I've felt a little funny and today the cold hit full force. I cannot believe I'm sick during the first week of school. Ridiculous. I stayed for all my classes (it's just too much trouble to miss classes unless it's absolutely necessary) and left after my lunch meeting. It felt good to take a nap and watch a movie. I made a delicous dinner, mostly because that's all I'm doing these days, cooking. Even when I'm sick. A girl's got to eat. It's the dishes I hate. Those I will wait to do until tomorrow when my eyes aren't pounding.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Back To School

A week from tomorrow begins 9 months of craziness. Actually, that's not true. My school year starts tomorrow with an MUN conference in Beijing. That means I'll be traveling about 25-30 days this semester. I'll be going to Beijing twice, Singapore, Seoul and somewhere in China for a volleyball tournament. Thank goodness my classload is different this year.

Last year, I taught AP World History and MUN (Model United Nations). See here if you want to learn more about MUN. Both turned out to be full time jobs. That means 1 person doing 2 jobs. I averaged out my work time for the year and it turned out to be about 80 hours a week. That doesn't include additional meetings or the 1.5 hours a day spent in transit or coaching volleyball. It was a really tough year. I was teaching two classes, one that I just wasn't smart enough for (AP) and the other, all the students knew more than I did and were super loyal to the previous teacher (MUN). I've never worked so hard or felt so inept. I think part of it was that the students that I was (and will be) teaching are so different here than they are in the US.

In the States, it's all about relationships. Once they know and trust me, they might listen to what I have to teach them. But mostly, it was about just getting through the class. Loving them and getting to know them was much more important. I was working with kids who had been abandoned by their parents, raised by grandparents, students who had immediate family members in gangs or serving life sentences in prison, students who had parents that didn't care one iota about how they did in school, it was just a glorified babysitting job. You had to be rough and abrupt and fun and tell stories and play games and do activities.

But here, it is literally the complete opposite. My classes are about 90% Korean. The rest are mostly Westerners that have almost genius IQs. For them, it's all about Academics. The more the teacher knows, the more respect the students have. First academics, then the relationship. And they don't want to mess around with group work or activities (specifically my AP), they want all lecture all the time. Maybe some discussion. To lecture for 1.5 hours is very difficult. I had to stud 4-6 hours for every class period. And I still didn't feel ready.

Last year was kind of that I-don't-have-the-time-to-prepare-properly-so-everything's-going-to-suffer year. I was doing a halfway job in everything. I had to, that's the only way things got done. And I hated it.

Looking back though, I did have some success. Even though the individual classes didn't go well, I was able to take my MUNers on trips all over the world successfully, host a large conference in Qingdao and my APers did VERY well on their exam. 13 out of 15 got 3s or above ( six with 5s). And I feel like I've grown tremendously as a teacher. Last year stretched me professionally unlike any other year. I definitely wasn't able to coast like I have in previous jobs.

THIS year, things will be different. I now know what I'm doing in MUN. I will have actual lesson plans and activities. I will know how to plan the trips and what paperwork to fill out. I'm already working on the conference we host next February. And the biggest news...I'm NOT teaching AP anymore. Woohoo! Man, I loved the students- we spent a lot of time together (A LOT!) but I will not miss that class. Instead, I'll be teaching World History I to 9th graders. We can do fun stuff and take our time. I don't have to lecture everyday. I can't express how happy that makes me. :) Man, it's going to be so fun! And I'm incorporating a whole bunch of stuff including student blogs and current events and well, I don't know what else yet, but it's going to be AWESOME!

I'm really excited about school this year. Yay. I think it's going to be a great year. I'm finally getting to teach the same subject two years in a row and stay in the same classroom. That in and of itself is a big deal. Anyway, God is good (of course, He was even last year when things were hard).

The following is for my mother but you all are welcome to read.

Mom, here's my class schedule:

Odd days (1,3,5)- WH1 9am-11:30am; MUN 1:30pm-3pm
Even days (2,4,6)- MUN 8am-9:30am; MUN 11:30am-1pm

I know it looks like I'm not doing much but I have Chinese two hours a week and MUN takes up most of my other prep time. Plus I'll be doing volleyball during first quarter and then traveling 2nd quarter.